BGL partner and leading disability rights attorney Jessie Weber was featured in a recent article by Government Technology entitled, “As Higher Ed Goes Digital, ADA Compliance Falls Behind.”
In the article, Government Technology examines how as colleges and universities become increasingly more technology-focused, higher education institutions are receiving more complaints that their websites and digital services are lacking the accessibility requirements mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In fact, according to the article, 97 percent of U.S. colleges and universities do not have accessibility-compliant websites.
The issue of accessible websites and services has become a major concern for educators and policymakers. Experts are also concerned that higher education institutions are being told by vendors that their websites are ADA-compliant when they are not, and that the colleges and universities do not know how to check to ensure they are compliant.
Jessie was tapped as an authority on this matter. Earlier this year, Jessie helped secure a major victory on behalf of two blind students, Portia Mason and Roy Payan, who were deprived an equal educational opportunity, in violation of the ADA, by the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) – the largest community college system in the nation.
In speaking to the publication, Jessie agreed that institutions should not take vendors’ word on whether their websites and platforms are ADA-compliant. She expressed the need for institutions to ensure their websites and any digital technology they’re using, such as social media platforms, podcasts, and video learning platforms, are accessible to students, rather than fixing issues after the fact.
Jessie told Government Technology that accessibility needs to be “baked into the institution’s policies and procedures.” She highlighted that one of the issues with LACCD’s digital services was the fact that administrators didn’t have a plan for what to do if a blind student took a course with online work.
“Like all other sectors, they need to be thinking about the accessibility of digital technology … Institutions of higher learning should be ensuring that the technology they procure is accessible,” Jessie said. “If there is truly no accessible alternative, and a piece of technology must be used, then the institution needs to know up front about what the problems are so they can make a plan. How are they going to provide access in a timely way to students with disabilities or faculty with disabilities? What are they going to do proactively so that they’re not just waiting around for a complaint?”
Jessie enjoys helping clients navigate a diverse range of difficult legal issues, with a focus on civil rights, including disability and LGBTQ rights, employment law, including wage and hour cases, and appellate litigation. Jessie’s successes include obtaining a $1.25 million settlement for a class of Baltimore City school bus drivers and attendants wrongly denied their full pay and securing an injunction requiring the Maryland Board of Elections to make absentee voting accessible to voters with print disabilities. Learn more about Jessie here.
Founded in 1982, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a law firm based in Baltimore, Maryland, with an office in Washington, D.C. The firm is nationally recognized in a wide variety of practice areas, including complex civil and commercial litigation, civil rights, health care, family law, and criminal defense. Above all else, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a client-centered law firm that brings decades of experience and passionate, effective advocacy to your fight for justice.